By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
The Princeton High boys swim team appears to be rounding into its best shape of the season at just the right time.
The Little Tigers concluded their regular season last week with a 96-74 win over Hopewell Valley to improve to 8-4. The win was the sixth in the last seven meets for the Little Tigers, who will compete in the Mercer County Championship meet Friday and Saturday at West Windsor-Plainsboro North.
“It was a good win to beat Hopewell at the end,” Princeton coach Carly Misiewicz said. “It was tough in the beginning of the season. Three of our first five meets were against (WW-P)South, (WW-P) North and Notre Dame. That was pretty rough. But the boys really pulled together. The Notre Dame meet was when it started to turn around. I thought we made them sweat a little bit and it was a good meet for us.”
The Notre Dame loss dropped the Little Tigers to 2-3, but since that meet the only blemish on their record was a narrow 86-84 setback against Lawrence.
“We had a couple losses early in the season, which isn’t as typical for us,” said junior Christian Chiang, who won the 100 butterfly and 100 breaststroke in the win over Hopewell. “We have always been a solid team. We have been raised to know what working hard is like and we are accustomed to how strong we can swim. Unfortunately, losses do happen. But we finished the regular season with a strong win against Hopewell.
“As a team we will always lose swimmers and will always gain new ones. We have some club swimmers from Eastern Express and X-Cel Swimming and Tiger Aquatics and they all have great potential and are getting adjusted to the team.”
Princeton and the rest of the Mercer County teams will compete in the Mercer meet that began with the girls prelims on Thursday and will continue with the boys prelims today. The finals are slated for Saturday.
The Princeton girls, who concluded an undefeated regular season with a 117-53 win over Hopewell, are the favorites to repeat as Mercer champs as they look for their fourth straight title.
On the boys side, WW-P South is considered the favorite after going undefeated in Colonial Valley Conference meets. The Pirates will face a stern test from Notre Dame and WW-P North, while Princeton hopes to challenge as well.
“Our record doesn’t show how well we were doing,” Misiewicz said of the Princeton boys. “We had a close meet with Lawrence. We knew it would be close. It was nice to come off our Christmas break training and working hard and then we had some meets to focus on. We had some good meets with Lawrence and Hopewell and now we have the counties.”
The boys don’t necessarily have the firepower they had at the top of the lineup when they were winning multiple country titles earlier in the decade. But they are developing a deeper roster with some good, young swimmers.
“Christian, Will Kinney, Oliver Tennant, Eric Liu, they are really coming into their own and finding themselves on the team,” Misiewicz said. “A couple years ago we graduated some big names. But like every other sport you need to rebuild and we’ve been doing that.
“Christian will do anything from the 50 to the 200 to the back and sometimes I throw him in the 500. He does a good job wherever we put him.”
Like the rest of the Little Tigers, Chiang just tries to keep improving.
“Things could be better,” said Chiang, who swims for the X-Cel club team. “I am seeing about the same times as previous seasons, not that they are bad. I am just hoping for more drop in my times. As long as I maintain consistency in that area and I am not gaining time I think I will be all right.”
While the Princeton girls head to the county meet a perfect 12-0, the boys will be looking to gain a measure of revenge for their four losses.
“With the boys, every time we had one of our losses the juniors and seniors would say we have to get them back at counties,” Misiewicz said. “They are looking forward to counties. We have told them the meet is a clean slate and that everyone else also comes in with a clean slate.
“Our goal is to be on the podium and medal as top three.”
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor